MISSION PHL: Celebrating the role of nations as partners for progress, development

First batch of awardees from the diplomatic corps and the partner development-aid agencies for the inaugural MISSION: PHL Envoys&Expats Awards.

IT was a recognition event like no other in recent times…. On the evening of April 4, the BusinessMirror staged the grand awarding ceremony of MISSION: PHL, the Envoys&Expats Awards at the SM Aura Premier’s Samsung Hall.

In what perhaps was the first and only occasion in the country they are publicly distinguished, members of the local diplomatic corps and development-aid agencies based in the country took the limelight for their remarkable endeavors and undertakings that have made indelible marks in the fields of progress and development for the Philippines.

The trophy, crafted by award-winning sculptor Julie Lluch, took inspiration from a famous Auguste Rodin oeuvre.

Country-friends through their embassies, as well as bilateral and multilateral aid agencies were given an appropriate and much-deserved platform via MISSION: PHL for their significant contributions in the sectors of agriculture, education, environment, infrastructure, science and technology, trade, tourism and transportation.

As the night unfolded, the most outstanding embassy, aid agency and project were feted through MISSION: PHL before ambassadors, top government officials, agency executives, delegation and mission representatives, among many other luminaries who provided due prestige for the recognition event.

‘Diplomatic’ lines

THE Embassy of Australia captured the major awards for the first “MISSION: PHL.” Ambassador Steven Robinson expressed his amazement when it was announced that his country’s government was adjudged the “Education of the Nation Award” in both the embassy and aid-agency categories, bestowed by no less than Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones.

But a bigger surprise awaited Robinson. Nearing the end of the program, after so many of the other awards were handed out, it was formally announced that the “Land Down Under” has bagged the “Embassy of the Year Award.”

“When I received the first award, I said I was surprised. But now, I am very, very surprised,” he muttered, lifting the MISSION: PHL statuette high in the air while beaming widely.

The envoy admitted that he hosted a backyard barbeque party for members of the local media just a few hours prior. He was thankful that he made it to the event just in time to personally receive the trophies.

Preceding Australia’s recognitions was that of the Embassy of Japan, which also garnered a number of trophies: the awards for Agriculture and Fisheries (from the Department of Agriculture), Infrastructure Support (courtesy of the Department of Public Works and Highways), Transportation Infrastructure Support (of the Department of Transportation), as well as Trade and Investment (via the Department of Trade and Industry). Ambassador Koji Haneda did not mind going up the stage several times as he received a total of four recognitions for his country’s embassy.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) also brought home “Development-Aid Partner of the Year Award” as it bagged distinctions for the last three aforementioned categories, as well as that for Science, Technology and Innovation from the Department of Science and Technology, as the aid agency’s Filipino managers were on hand to claim the trophies.

“Project of the Year Award” went to the Delegation of the European Union in the Philippines for the Establishment of Model Recovery Clinics (Voluntary Outpatient-Based Medical Treatment Facilities for Drug Users; related story on page 4). Ambassador Franz Jessen expressed his appreciation to the organizers and accorded warm felicitations to members of the diplomatic community present.

Ambassador Daniel Pruce, having received the Science, Technology, and Innovation Award on behalf of the Embassy of the United Kingdom in the Philippines, surprised guests in attendance when he effortlessly greeted everyone in flawless Tagalog: Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat!

Not to be outdone, Republic of Korea Ambassador Han Dong-man, who received the “Visit the Philippines Award” accolade for his embassy from the Department of Tourism, not only greeted guests in Tagalog, but proceeded to enunciate many more phrases the local language: (Mahal ko kayong mga Pilipino!).

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Biodiversity Award for development-aid agencies went to the United Nations Development Program, as Deputy Resident Rep. Enrico Gaveglia, who received the trophy, declared: “This is the closest thing I would get [to having an] Oscar,” as he brandished the MISSION: PHL statuette high up in the air in jubilation.

Award inspirations

SPEAKING of the statuette, it was crafted by foremost artist-sculptor Julie Lluch. Designed in the form of a human figure, it was inspired by French artist Auguste Rodin’s masterpiece Adam, which represents the entire human race. The figure stood on top of a globe, which had the map of the Philippines front and center.

Lluch described the essence of the statuette, thus: “The Rodin-esque figure is robustly muscular, with arms extended toward the center…. The trophy is intended to convey equality, solidarity, compassion and heroic striving toward a common, perfect good.”

The significance of the night, however, was encapsulated through the message of Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya, assistant secretary of the Foreign Affairs Department, and one of the earliest supporters of MISSION: PHL: “It was an honor to have participated as a member of the panel of judges that gave recognition to foreign embassies and aid agencies for their valuable support to Philippine development programs, notably in infrastructure development, health services, [as well as] peace and reconciliation in Mindanao.”

“The BusinessMirror rendered a big service on behalf of all Filipinos by giving recognition, perhaps long overdue, to the foreign embassies and aid agencies that have done much for our people, especially in the countryside.”

“Given the high number of attendees and their enthusiastic responses, this recognition event…can only get bigger and grander,” he said.

“Kudos to Publisher T. Anthony C. Cabangon, Project Coordinator Psyche Roxas-Mendoza and their colleagues for their exemplary vision and innovative support to Philippine development efforts,” Malaya concluded.

The keynote speaker, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr, said he had to mark this day special, and “not simply a note on [his] busy calendar,” to make sure he would be present to grace the occasion, despite the hectic itinerary.

“I marked this day’s event as one that no other appointment could displace….  I could not miss this [one] for the chance to link back to a friendship with a most remarkable man—the inspiration behind this recognition award: the late Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua, former ambassador [of the Philippines] to Laos, and former chairman emeritus of the BusinessMirror.”

He could not have summed it up better by looking back at the humble beginnings of the section which dedicates itself to trumpeting the works of the diplomatic community and the aid agencies from the country-friends of the Philippines: “Cabangon Chua saw in Envoys&Expats a platform for ideas, aspirations, plans, and programs of the diplomatic community for a better Philippines. He appreciated the richness of the stories behind concrete programs and projects that gave flesh to, and enlivened the socioeconomic, humanitarian, and cultural partnerships between the Philippines and the rest of the world.”

Organizers of MISSION: PHL revealed that the campaign will resume by midyear and solidify existing partnerships with government agencies, as well as forge new ones to make the recognition event more relevant to a greater portion of Philippine society, while increasing inclusivity and engagement with more members of the diplomatic corps and development-aid agencies based in the country.


Rodrigo R. Duterte

President, Republic of the Philippines

MY warmest greetings to the organizers, nominees and awardees of MISSION: PHL, the BusinessMirror Envoys&Expats Awards.

I join the BusinessMirror and its partner government agencies in recognizing the important role of states and international development-aid institutions in improving the lives of ordinary Filipinos. Indeed, history has taught us that forging beneficial partnerships among nations have enabled governments and private organizations to work toward fostering economic growth, social progress and lasting peace.

May this maiden event inspire embassies, consulates, economic and cultural offices, aid agencies and the entire diplomatic community to launch more initiatives that will contribute to national development, especially in the areas of biodiversity, agriculture and fisheries, trade and investments, science and technology, education, transportation, infrastructure and tourism.

Emulating the standards set by our awardees, let us work together in promoting international unity and cooperation through endeavors that lead to the greater prosperity and stability of our nation.

Again, congratulations, and I wish you all the best.

Inspirational Message

Benjamin V. Ramos

President, BusinessMirror

IN the age of social media and the Internet, it is so easy to pick fights and to belittle the efforts of others. The information superhighway is littered with the corpses of ideas, dreams and aspirations that faced the belligerence of a disbelieving and angry public.

This is why April 4, 2019, will forever be a special day for the BusinessMirror.

On this day, we in the BusinessMirror realized that a newspaper does not need to be just all about the news. A newspaper can also be a platform for opening the Filipino mindset to global, positive change.

This is what MISSION: PHL, the BusinessMirror Envoys&Expats Awards hopes to achieve: to make the public more aware and appreciative of the successful partnerships forged between the Philippines and other nations of the world in the name of genuine progress and peace.

We thank all our friends in the diplomatic community, the Philippine government and private sector for making MISSION: PHL a reality.

On behalf of the BusinessMirror family, maraming salamat po!


T. Anthony C. Cabangon

Publisher, BusinessMirror

DISTINGUISHED guests from the diplomatic corps, our esteemed members of the Cabinet and their hardworking staff, friends of the BusinessMirror, ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to tonight’s culminating ceremony of MISSION: PHL, the BusinessMirror Envoys&Expats Awards—an unprecedented initiative whose fruition has come at a most serendipitous time.

To say that this initiative—to mount the country’s first and only recognition awards for the Philippines’s best partners in development cooperation—was a formidable challenge is an understatement. Truth to tell, it has been an exhausting year for everyone involved here.

The past nearly half a century or so of development cooperation has seen economists, government planners, aid agencies, our foreign-government friends and civil society all whipping up one project after another in an effort to uplift human lives. But it’s only now that we’ve given ourselves a chance to look back and recognize the ones that exemplify our best hopes in what development cooperation can achieve.

At the risk of being repetitive, I state again that MISSION: PHL, the BusinessMirror Envoys&Expats Awards, was not conceptualized as a contest, but a recognition exercise to allow all stakeholders, especially from the donor and recipient side, those in and out of government, to have a more deliberative approach to planning projects and programs for official development assistance, or ODA.

Inspiration for this novel project came from my late father, Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua, the Philippines’s former ambassador to Laos and former chairman emeritus of the BusinessMirror. He had prevailed on us to put out the Envoys&Expats section in the BusinessMirror a few years before his death. There, he saw a platform for the ideas, aspirations, plans and programs of the diplomatic community for a better Philippines.

It was hard to make people appreciate the laudable efforts of the diplomatic community, but the BusinessMirror saw this as a challenge and provided exciting reportage of what normally would be boring stuff.

In late-2017 we decided to level up: this time to focus on the important partnerships forged between the Philippine government and the diplomatic community. We officially launched MISSION: PHL on March 22, 2018.

MISSION: PHL gives due recognition to the development efforts of countries represented through their embassies, as well as bilateral and multilateral development-aid partners.

As I stated at the outset, Mission: PHL is not a competition. The awards are in recognition of the strong and enduring partnerships fostered between the Philippines and a nation or embassy in particular areas of growth. They are also in recognition of specific projects that boost the Filipino people’s aspirations for a truly progressive and developed Philippines.

The collaborative work entailed constant coordination with foreign governments through embassies, aid agencies and Philippine government agencies. In going about this endeavor, the BusinessMirror was the most daunting. We forged government and private-sector partnerships that led to the creation of eight technical working groups, or TWGs, and a seven-man panel.

The yearlong work of these eight TWGs and the panel members will formalize the recognition awards for embassy awardee and development-aid partner awardee across eight categories. It will also make known the awards for Project of the Year, Development-Aid Partner of the Year, and the Embassy of the Year.

At this point, let me thank the government agencies who journeyed with us in this recognition exercise and handled the nitty-gritty of reviewing projects: the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Education, Department of Tourism, Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Transportation.

The work of these agencies resulted in the eight category awards being given out tonight: the Agriculture and Fisheries Award; Biodiversity Award; Science, Technology and Innovation Award; Infrastructure Support Award; Education of the Nation Award; Visit the Philippines Award; Trade and Investment Award; and Transportation Infrastructure Support Award.

Special thanks goes to the MISSION: PHL Panel who, together with the BusinessMirror and support from our official partners from Alas Oplas accounting firm, deliberated at length on the depth and breadth of projects flagged by our government agency partners.

The members of the panel are Director Hazel Iris Baliatan of the Neda; Assistant Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya of the DFA; our academe representative Dean Jikyeong Kang of the Asian Institute of Management; our private-sector representative Henry Schumacher; our civil-society representative Filomeno Sta. Ana III of the Action for Economic Reform; our representative for the youth sector Cristina Aquino; and representative for the BusinessMirror, our columnist John Mangun.

To all of you, our heartfelt thanks. Here’s our earnest wish that you will still join us as we continue this journey of friendship and cooperation among peoples.


Lourdes M. Fernandez

Editor in Chief, BusinessMirror

HE has been called a rock star at Twitter, where he’s constantly jousting with other people, friend and foe alike, practically 24 hours a day.

Those who follow him either shake their heads in disbelief or shock or go “tsk, tsk, tsk…” when they think a comment is over-the-top, or simply laugh out loud or roll on the floor in laughter at his humor; that is, once they get it.

Truth to tell, it’s sometimes hard to understand our guest speaker’s point on Twitter, unless one has followed him elsewhere—on life’s other “platforms”—his career, his life, his background, his stand or advocacy on the things that matter most to him: these, whether in his incarnation as journalist, lawyer or public servant. Or simply, as he once put it so deprecatingly, the small, balding funny man…

It’s hard to define our guest speaker because, in truth, one shouldn’t even try. That is the magic, that is the charm, that is the quality that keeps thousands of people hooked, whether they hate or love him.

At his confirmation hearing as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary, we heard the best words from some of our senators:

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, chairman of the Commission on Appointments, said: “One of the best appointments ever. Excellent choice. The Philippines cannot be bullied with him as DFA chief.”

Let’s hear it from Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto: “This is one of the rare times that ‘the best and the brightest’ rule in presidential appointments has been followed. He will use his formidable knowledge in world affairs and in law in advancing our country’s interests and in protecting our countrymen abroad.”

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Commission of Appointments’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, said of him: “Always the maverick, quick-witted and acerbic; never dull, and never ordinary. He has distinguished himself with the credentials and qualifications befitting someone who should be at the helm of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Irrepressible, articulate, very independent-minded and extraordinarily prolific in writing.”

This quintessential bookworm, heir-publisher of the Philippines Free Press, and the national broadsheets Daily Globe and TODAY, is the ultimate multimedia creature, hosting Teditorial, Assignment and Points of View on television, and cohosting radio programs Executive Session and Karambola. And now, he’s on social media.

The lawyer who earned degrees from Ateneo de Manila University and Harvard Law School has been, besides being a three-term congressman for Makati City, a presidential counsel and spokesperson, and an excellent speechwriter for presidents.

None of these, however, completely captures this man of such great talent, but with also an unfailing capacity to heap praise and kindness on others when they deserve it.

We thank him for gracing tonight’s constellation of diplomatic stars with his own shining presence. Ladies and gentlemen, the secretary of the DFA, Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr.


Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs

YOUR Excellencies, members of the diplomatic corps, friends from the United Nations agencies and development-aid partners, fellow Cabinet members and representatives of Philippine government agencies, friends.

A pleasant evening to everyone… First, I’d like to thank the BusinessMirror, its publisher T. Anthony C. Cabangon and the chairman of the Aliw Media Group, his brother D. Edgard A. Cabangon, for inviting me to address tonight’s distinguished roster of guests for the country’s first-ever—and only—recognition awards for those countries and development-aid agencies that have joined hands with the Philippines in pursuing sustainable social and economic development.

No doubt, MISSION: PHL, the BusinessMirror Envoys&Expats Awards is a remarkable undertaking, and a challenging one. I congratulate those who worked behind the scenes, since late 2017, to midwife such a difficult and significant undertaking.

But no, I did not set aside a busy schedule to join you tonight. I marked this day’s event as one that no other appointment could displace. Not least, because I was present at the creation of the BusinessMirror that, Anton here said, would be the biggest newspaper in the country. It is, at least in size and, certainly, in intelligence. But I could not miss this event for the chance to link back to a friendship with a most remarkable man—the inspiration behind this recognition award: the late Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua, former ambassador to Laos and former chairman emeritus of BusinessMirror.

It was his brainchild: the BusinessMirror’s Envoys&Expats section. It would serve the springboard for tonight’s recognition awards. Ambassador Cabangon Chua saw in Envoys&Expats a platform for ideas, aspirations, plans and programs of the diplomatic community for a better Philippines. He appreciated the richness of the stories behind concrete programs and projects that gave flesh to, and enlivened the socioeconomic, humanitarian and cultural partnerships between the Philippines and the rest of the world.

Truth to tell, making the average Filipino aware of these efforts and their significance in helping achieve national development is a tough task.  These are not—at first, second, and worse yet, third blush—what you could describe as “sexy” stories; these are the stuff that an Internet-addicted public will immediately regret clicking after a one-second glance at the screen.

Yet here we are, more than a year from the official launch of MISSION: PHL, on this culminating night, giving due recognition to the development efforts of countries represented by their embassies, as well as bilateral and multilateral development-aid partners.

If this initiative had been done, say, two or three decades ago, it would not have made so much sense, nor created much of an impact, for the story of development cooperation and the Philippines, which was still a work in progress—and it still is—for many, many years. And it was marked by hard but crucial lessons for all concerned.

On the one hand, the countries, along with development-aid agencies and multilateral institutions which extended the aid; and, on the other hand, the receiving country, the Philippines, its bureaucracy and the people who are the ultimate target of assistance: indeed, everyone with a stake in development cooperation—worked together for the highest good and in the most cost-efficient, sustainable manner possible. They all contributed to the story that is finally being pieced together in a coherent manner tonight and its result given proper due.

The little I know about development aid is that it is a great deal of money, though nothing that a country cannot provide for itself; and quite a lot of talk, most of which no country could know about on its own. Behind it is a philosophy of development that is behind the most recent success story today: China’s. Don’t reinvent the wheel or struggle at great cost and much loss of precious time to learn to the way to do things better that is already known elsewhere and only has to be accessed, adapted and adopted. There is a long story here and the evening is short. So let me conclude with two key points:

First, I wish to convey our heartfelt gratitude to the members of the diplomatic corps who represent the peoples who have been, through a long time, the Filipinos’ constant friends, as well as the multilateral and bilateral development-aid agencies that have journeyed with us in the past half century to find better ways to ask for and use aid for sustainable development.

Second, I want to underscore, that in all the years that we were subject of ODA reviews, it is obvious that development cooperation is a shared accountability. It is neither something that a donor country or institution alone can dictate, nor a recipient country or people can demand for unilaterally. It arises from a shared vision by peoples that, as members of the community of nations, are motivated solely by the desire to help uplift the lives of other people; and to manage differences between those two in the best and most productive way possible. Because development assistance, despite the bad and baseless rap it’s gotten, is not about getting one over the one who needs the help or gives the help. It is about working together to get one over the problems that keep a people down and frustrate the people who want to help them.

The story of development cooperation is many decades old. And it is a continuing and evolving story—one made up as it goes along. But, at least for tonight, it is a story more coherently and comprehensively told by the efforts of the BusinessMirror’s Mission: PHL, Envoys&Expats Awards. Ending Part One and starting the first chapter of a second part, which I think will be a thin volume; because the story of development should soon be coming to its end as we cross over not too long from now into a developed nation. And then another story will begin of the Philippines as a major donor nation. For there is no return on investment, no recompense for good deeds done, that is so satisfying as that which comes of giving with no thought of return.

I hope the excellent cooperation that has marked this narrative—extended by the embassies; by the aid agencies; by the Cabinet implementing departments and the BusinessMirror’s partners in the Mission: PHL panel from academe, civil society, the private sector, youth, the National Economic and Development Authority, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs—will continue to mark the shared accountability integral to development cooperation, as peoples and governments continue to pursue human progress. With, to paraphrase a song that dates us all, “a little help from our friends.”

Image credits: Nonoy Lacza, Bernard Testa


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